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11 UNCONVENTIONAL

MACHINING PROCESSES
Objectives
y Understand the need for inventing the unconventional
processes, and their range of applications.
y Understand the principles and applications of electric
discharge machining.
y Understand the principles and applications of
electrochemical machining.
y Understand the principles and applications of ultrasonic
machining.
y Understand the principles and applications of chemical
machining.
y Understand the principles and applications of laser beam
machining.
y Understand the principles and applications of abrasive
water jet machining.(c) TMH New Delhi, Manufacturing
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Processes
y Electric Discharge Machining (EDM)
y Electro Chemical Machining (ECM)
y Electro Chemical Grinding (ECG)
y Ultrasonic Machining (USM)
y Laser Beam Machining (LBM)
y Chemical machining (CHM)
y Abrasive Water Jet Machining (AWJM)
y Water Jet Machining (WJM)
y Plasma Arc Machining (PAM)

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Need for Unconventional Processes
y High strength alloys: In such cases the electro-
chemical processes would be required.
y Complex surfaces: In hardened tool steels
materials such as in moulds and dies are difficult
to be processed by the conventional means.
y Higher accuracies and surface finish:
Conventional processes are very slow and
uneconomical on hard materials.
y Difficult geometries: long holes with length to
diameter ratio approaching that of 100, or very
small size holes such as those with less than 0.1
mm in diameter (c) TMH New Delhi, Manufacturing
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Electric Discharge Machining
y Material removed by an electric spark
y This process is also called as spark machining or
spark erosion machining.
y The EDM process involves a controlled erosion of
electrically conductive materials by the initiation
of rapid and repetitive spark discharges between
the tool and workpiece separated by a small gap
of about 0.01 to 0.50 mm.

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Electric Discharge Machining
y The temperature of the arc may reach
about 10 000°C.
y The vapour of the metal would be
quenched by the dielectric medium when
the arc is terminated by the electric pulse
and thus the wear debris is always
spherical in nature.
y The wear debris would be carried away by
the dielectric fluid, which is in continuous
circulation.
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Electric Discharge Machining
y Typical parameters used in EDM process are:
y Spark gap 0.0125 to 0.125 mm
y Current 0.5 to 400 A
y Voltage (DC) 40 to 300 V
y Pulse duration 2 to 2000 µs
y Dielectric pressure < 0.2 MPa
y Surface finish 3 to 10 µm Rough
y 0.8 to 3 µm Finish
y The metal removal rates are about 16.4
cm3/hour per 20 A of current.
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Dielectric Fluid
y The dielectric fluid is a spark conductor, coolant
and also a flushing medium.
y The dielectric fluid should have sufficient and
stable dielectric strength to serve as insulation
between the tool and work till the breakdown
voltage is reached.
y It should de-ionise rapidly after the spark
discharge has taken place.
y It should have low viscosity and a good wetting
capacity to provide effective cooling mechanism
and remove the swarf particles from the
machining gap. (c) TMH New Delhi, Manufacturing
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y
Dielectric Fluid
y It should flush out the particles produced during
the spark out of the gap.
y It should be chemically neutral so as not to
attack the electrode, the workpiece, the table or
the tank.
y Its flash point should be high so that no fire
hazards.
y It should not emit any toxic vapours or have
unpleasant odours.

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Dielectric Fluid
y It should maintain these properties with
temperature variation, contamination by working
residuals and products of decomposition.
y Economical and easily available.

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Table 11-3 Performance of various dielectric fluids
Dielectric fluid Material removal  Wear ratio
rate, Work material 
removed
cm3/A min × 104
Hydrocarbon oil 39.0 2.8
Distilled water 54.6 2.7
Tap water 57.7 4.1
Tetra ethylene glycol 102.9 6.8

Volume of work material removed


Wear ratio = Volume of electrode material worn out

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Dielectric Fluid
y Flash point
y Dielectric strength
y Viscosity
y Specific gravity
y Odour
y Effect on health

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Table 11-4 Typical Properties of Dielectric Fluids from British Petroleum

180 200 200T


Gravity, °API 46.0 47.0 53.2
Density 0.797 0.793 0.766
Flash Point COC, °C (°F) 82 90 108

Viscosity, cSt 40° C 1.65 2.25 1.92


Aromatic Content, % <0.01 <0.01 <0.001

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Flushing Method
y Normal flow
y Reverse flow
y Jet flushing
y Immersion flushing

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Electrodes
y It should be a good conductor of electricity and
heat.
y It should be easily machinable to any shape at a
reasonable cost.
y It should produce efficient material removal rates
from the workpieces.
y It should resist the deformation during the
erosion process.
y It should exhibit low electrode (tool) wear rates.
y It should be available in a variety of shapes.
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System Analysis
y The major workpiece parameter is the
energy required to raise a unit volume to
its melting point.
y The power supplies are 50 to 80%
efficient and a typical value is of the order
of 2.3 mm3/s/kW.
y However, steel can be raised to its melting
point using about 120 mm3/s/kW.

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Pulse Generation
y With relaxation circuit has low material removal
rates.
y Pulse generators can provide better material
removal rates.
y The spark will have all the required energy and is
made available as soon as the gap conditions are
right for sparking.
y In these systems the spark current flows from a
source whose voltage is not less than the limiting
voltage of the spark gap.

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Process Characteristics
y Current in each spark
y Frequency of the discharge
y Electrode material
y Workpiece material
y Dielectric flushing condition

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Advantages
y Any complex shape required in dies and mould
can be easily produced to the required degree of
accuracy and finish.
y The process is not affected by the hardness of
the work material.
y The material removal rates are almost
comparable with that of the conventional
machining processes.
y Since there are no cutting forces acting on the
tool, high aspect ratio surfaces can be machined
using EDM process.
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Advantages
y Though the material is removed by the heat
produced by the spark, there is thermal damage
to the workpiece material.
y The process is generally a highly automated with
very little operator skill required.
y The actual surface produced by EDM consists of
small craters, which may help in the retention of
the lubricants.

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Limitations
y The wear rate on the electrode is considerably
higher. Sometimes it may be necessary to use
more than one electrode to finish the job.
y The workpiece should be electrically conductive
to be machined using the EDM process.
y The energy required for the operation is more
than that of the conventional process and hence
will be more expensive.

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Wire EDM
y Electric discharge wire cutting or more commonly
called wire EDM is a process of producing
complex 2 and 3 dimensional shapes using a
simple wire eroding the material from an
electrically conducting material.
y The electrode wire is typically of a diameter of
0.05 to 0.25 mm copper or brass, which is wound
between the two spools
y Wire EDM is used for machining the sheet metal
dies, extrusion dies and prototype parts.

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Electro Chemical Machining
y Electro chemical machining (ECM) relies
on the principle of electrolysis for material
removal.
y Fe → Fe ++ + 2e (anode)
y H2O + 2e → H2 + 2OH – (cathode)
y Fe++ + 2OH - → Fe (OH)2
y Fe + 2H2O → Fe (OH)2 + H2

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Electro Chemical Machining
y The metal from the anode is dissolved
electrochemically and hence the metal removal
rate based on the Faraday's laws will depend
upon atomic weight, valency, the current passed
and the time for which the current is passes, and
on no other parameter.
y At the cathode only hydrogen gas is evolved and
no other reaction takes place, so the shape of the
cathode is unaffected.

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Electrolyte
y Completes the electrical circuit between
the tool and the workpiece,
y Allow desirable machining reactions to
takes place,
y Carry away heat generated during the
operation,
y Carry away products of reaction from the
zone of machining.

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Electrolyte
y High electrical conductivity
y Low viscosity and high specific heat
y Chemical stability
y Resistance to formation of passivating film
on workpiece surface
y Non corrosive and non toxic
y Inexpensive and readily available.

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Electrolyte
y Sodium chloride or potassium chloride
upto 0.25 kg/litre.
‚ Most widely used because of low cost and
stable conductivity over a broad range of pH
values.
‚ However it is corrosive and produces large
amount of sludge.
‚ It cannot be used on tungsten carbide or
molybdenum.

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Electrolyte
y Sodium nitrate upto 0.50 kg/litre. Less
corrosive but forms a passive film on the
workpiece surface.
‚ Hence not used as a general purpose
electrolyte.
‚ It is used for machining aluminium and copper.

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ECM System Analysis
y The volumetric material removal rate is
y MRR = A I mm3/s
Z F ρa
y A = Atomic weight of the work material,
y I = Current, Amperes
y Z = Valency of the work material,
y F = Faraday's constant = 96 540 Coulombs
y ρa = Density of work material

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ECM Tools
y The properties expected of the tool
materials are:
‚ High electrical and thermal conductivity
‚ Good stiffness
‚ Easy machinability
‚ High corrosion resistance
y Generally Aluminium, copper, brass,
titanium, cupro-nickel and stainless steel
are used as tool materials.
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Process Characteristics
y Excellent surface finish of the order of 0.4 μm
can be obtained with tolerances of the order of ±
0.02 mm or less.
y The repeatability is also good because the tool
wear is almost non-existent.
y Feed rate: High feed rate results in higher
material removal rate. It also decreases the
equilibrium-machining gap resulting in
improvement of surface finish and tolerance
control.

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Process Characteristics
y Voltage: Low voltage decreases the equilibrium-
machining gap and results in better surface and
finer tolerance control.
y Current: Increased current leads to electrolyte
heating, the limiting condition being the boiling
point of the electrolyte.
y Electrolyte concentration: Low concentration of
electrolyte decreases the machining gap and
results in better surface and finer tolerance
control.

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Advantages
y Complex 3 dimensional surfaces can be
machined accurately.
y Since there are no cutter marks, surface
finish will be higher.
y The tool wear is practically nil which
results in a large number of components
produced per tool.
y The ECM process does not thermally affect
the workpiece.
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Limitations
y Use of corrosive media as electrolytes
makes it difficult to handle.
y Sharp interior edges and corners (< 0.2
mm radius) are difficult to produce.
y Very expensive machine.

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Electro Chemical Grinding
y Electrochemical grinding (ECG) is a process that
combines the electrochemical machining with the
mechanical grinding operation to remove
material.
y It uses a grinding wheel with electrically
conductive abrasive bonding agent.
y The electrolyte is introduced into the gap
between the wheel and the workpiece in a
manner similar to the application of grinding fluid
in the conventional grinding operation.

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Ultrasonic Machining
y The term ultrasonic refers to the
frequency range above the audible range
and is above 16 kHz.
y Ultrasonic machining (USM) is a
mechanical metal removal process for
brittle materials by using high frequency
oscillations of a shaped tool using abrasive
slurry.

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Transducer
y To convert the electrical energy to vibratory
motion utilising either the piezoelectric or
magnetostrictive principles.
y Piezoelectric transducers can be used upto a
power of 900 W.
y The magnetostrictive transducers can be used for
higher power upto 2400 W.

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Tool cone (Horn)
y It amplifies the mechanical energy produced by
the transducer.
y Horn mechanically amplifies the vibratory energy
to give the required force-amplitude ratio.
y It acts as a resonator to amplify the signal. It
should have adequate strength.
y Titanium, monel and stainless steels are
generally used as tool cone materials.
y Stainless steel is used only for low amplitude
applications.

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Abrasive Slurry
y The abrasive selected should be harder than the
material being machined.
y Typical abrasives used are aluminium oxide,
Silicon carbide and Boron carbide.
y Aluminium oxide wears fast and good for glass
and ceramics.
y Boron carbide is the most popularly used
abrasive.
‚ Harder than silicon carbide and expensive.
‚ It has faster material removal rate and can withstand
high vibrational forces.
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Abrasive Slurry
y The abrasive is suspended in a liquid with about
30 to 60% by volume of abrasive.
y Liquid should be
‚ A density approximately equal to that of the abrasive.
‚ Good wetting properties, to wet the tool, the work and
the abrasive.
‚ A low viscosity to carry the abrasive down the sides of
the hole between tool and workpiece.
‚ A high thermal conductivity and high specific heat for
efficient removal of heat from the cutting zone.

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Advantages
y USM is used for machining hard and brittle
materials to complex shapes with good accuracy
and reasonable surface finish.
y It is not affected by the electrical or chemical
characteristics of the work material.
y Holes of any shape can be produced.
y It has no high speed moving parts. Working is
not hazardous.
y Power consumption is about 0.1 Watt Hour/mm3
for glass and about 5.0 Watt Hour/mm3.

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Limitations
y Metal removal rates are low.
y Depth of hole produced is limited.
y Tool wear is high and sharp corners
cannot be produced.
y Flat surfaces cannot be produced at the
bottom of the cavity because of the
ineffective slurry distribution.

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Chemical Machining
y Chemical machining or chemical milling is
a process used to dissolve the workpiece
material in chemical solutions.
y Since the chemical solutions used have
the ability to dissolve all of the workpiece
material, the parts that are not to be
dissolved would have to be applied with a
mask, which resists the chemical action of
the solution, so that only the chemical
solutions remove the unmasked portion.
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Chemical Machining
y Clean the workpiece thoroughly.
y Apply a chemical resistant mask on the
workpiece surface where no material is to be
removed.
y Dip the workpiece into the chemical solution
called etchant and leave it for sufficient time to
get the necessary depth of etching.
y Remove the mask and clean the workpiece.

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Masks
y Chemical resistance: Thicker maskants can resist
the erosive action of the etchant for a longer
period.
y Quantity of parts: For large volume production,
the masking process should be as simple as
possible to reduce the cost.
y Ease of removal: Delicate parts require that the
maskant be easier to remove.
y Required resolution: Thicker masks are generally
less accurate.

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Etchants
y Surface finish: Some etchants promote the
formation of surface oxides, which is detrimental
to the surface finish.
y Removal rate: Active etchants remove material
faster reducing the machining time, but also are
likely to attack the maskant, gives poor surface
finish.
y Material type: The etchant while removing the
material should not cause inter granular attacks,
hydrogen embrittlement or stress corrosion
cracking.
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Laser Beam Machining
y Laser beam machining (LBM) utilises the
energy from the coherent light beams
called laser (light amplification by
stimulated emission of radiation).

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Advantages
y Laser beam machining does not apply any direct
force because it is a non-contact machining.
y Laser beam machining can be localized to a small
area thereby removing a very small amount of
material.
y Since the heat is localized, Heat Affected Zone
(HAZ) in laser beam machining is small.
y Laser beam machining can be applied to any
material that is not reflective and can properly
absorb the laser irradiation.

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Advantages
y There is no need to have multiple passes
to complete machining in Laser beam
machining.
y Laser light can be transmitted and
reflected using simple mechanisms at very
high speeds. This gives the Laser beam
machining a lot more flexibility.

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Abrasive Water Jet Machining (AWJM)
y It is a process that uses a very high speed
(supersonic about 2.5 Mach number) water jet
mixed with abrasives to cut any type of material
without in any way affecting the work material or
the environment.
y If the process is used without any abrasives, it is
called as water jet machining.

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Equipment
y An intensifier pump to provide high-pressure
water,
y The abrasive delivery system and a cutting head
for producing the abrasive water jet,
y Computer controlled manipulator to provide the
desired motion of the cutting head, and
y A catcher that dissipates the remaining jet
energy after cutting.

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Process Parameters
y Jet velocity
y Feed rate
y Abrasive used and their size
y Work material and its thickness

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Process Parameters
y Jet velocity
‚ As the velocity increases the material removal
rate increases which will have an effect on the
quality of the surface produced.
y Feed rate
‚ As the feed rate of the jet increases the jet has
lower time to erode the surface and
consequently the surface finish of the cut edge
will be rough.

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Process Parameters
y Jet Drag
y Jet Kerf
y Standoff

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Advantages
y Cuts through any material irrespective of the
hardness or any other material characteristic.
y Costs with AWJM are less than other machining
methods.
y The quality of the cut achieved by AWJ machine
virtually eliminates additional finishing.
y AWJM is faster than other methods, especially for
materials that would otherwise require a lot of
additional finishing.
y AWJM does not generate a lot of heat during the
cutting process.
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Advantages
y Scrap material left after using the AWJM remains
unaltered and hence can be reused.
y Since the side forces are low, it is possible to cut
thin (as low as 0.5 mm) walled parts.
y Very little fixturing is required for most parts.
y In many cases, material can be stacked to
decrease production costs.
y Since the water jet cuts with very little force, the
amount of burr generated is extremely small if at
all present.

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Summary
y Unconventional machining processes were
developed to machine hard and heat resistant
materials.
y There are a number of processes such as EDM,
ECM, USM, etc each of which rely on different
principle to displace material from the workpiece.
y Electric discharge machining (EDM) removes
metal by the heat generated by the spark
generated between the electrode and the
workpiece.

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Summary
y Electrode materials include copper, graphite and
tungsten, though graphite is the most commonly
used electrode material.
y Most widely used process to machine complex
dies and moulds used for die casting and
injection moulding.
y Electrochemical machining (ECM) utilises the
principle of anodic dissolution of material to
remove the material from the workpiece.

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Summary
y The accuracy of the workpiece achieved is
excellent with very little wear of the
electrode.
y Electrolyte flow between the electrode and
workpiece is very critical since it
completes the electrical circuit while
removing the heat generated and
products of reaction away from the
machining zone.
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Summary
y Ultrasonic machining (USM) removes
material by abrading a brittle material by
the abrasive in a slurry using the
ultrasonic vibrations.
y It is a simple equipment however the tool
wear is high and the material removal
rates are low.
y Chemical Machining (CHM) is essentially
the removal of material by dissolving in a
chemical solution.
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Summary
y Laser beam machining (LBM) uses the focused
energy of the light beam to partially melt and
blow away the material to cut at very precise
locations. Used predominantly to make holes and
cut complex contours.
y Abrasive water jet machining (AWJM) utilises
very high speed jet of water mixed with abrasive
to cut any type of material. This is being
increasingly utilised in the industry since it can
cut any material and also will not affect the
workpiece material in any way.
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